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Full text of "Our Art Clubs. III. The Society of American Artists"

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THE ART UNION. 



79 



OUR ART CLUBS. 




III.— The Society of American Artists. 

IT is nearly ten years since 
that famous exhibition 
at the National Academy of 
Design, when certain of the 
younger painters of America 
made a sudden and unex- 
pected assertion of their 
powers which opened peo- 
ple's eyes to the existence of 
an entirely new art among 
us — an art fed from a differ- 
ent fount of inspiration and 
feeling to what had erst been 
regarded as our own. and 
bred in a different school. 



CHARLES F. UI.RICH. 

The new movement, as it has been called, was a 
declaration of new ideas and new met hod?, neither 
more nor less, the ideas and the methods being 
those of the great European school in which its 
champions had graduated. The result of the new 
movement was the formation, during the sum- 
mer after the spring exhibition of 1877, of the 
Society of American Ariists. 

In its constitution the new society commences 
with the declaration, "The name of this associa- 
tion shall be ' The Society of American Artists. ' 
Its location the City of New York. Its object 
shall be the advancement of the Fine Arts." 
There is something magnificent in the far-reach- 
ing and chivalric quality of this simply framed 
declaration of principles. If the society has, 
for causes which are not a subject for discus- 
sion here, failed to achieve the end it might, it 
still did much towards it, and will, with judi- 
cious government and application of its latent 
powers, do much more. It has given us some 
fine and always interesting exhibitions, and no 
time was ever as ripe as the present for it to re- 
assert itself and resume the splendid work it set 
out to perform. 

The first two exhibitions of the society were 
its best. In these it made a deep impression oi 
technical advancement and executive power, 
and through them it commanded for its mem- 
bers such respect as is accorded by thoughtful men to men of new 
ideas. But the impression did not reach the general public, who 
understood but little of the aims and purposes of the band of 
young enthusiasts, and naturally sympathized but little with a phase of 
art that was above them. The society's displays were then, as they have 
been since, artistic successes, but not popular ones. This year the 
series was broken for the first time, no exhibition being given; but one is 
definitely promised for the coming season, and the indications are that the 
promise will be kept. 

The roll call of the Society of American Artists is sufficient demonstra- 
tion of the high quality of the art it champions. With figure painting and 
portraiture represented by such painters as Walter Shirlaw, Eastman John- 
son, Wm. M. Chase, Frederick Dielman, Kenyon Cox, Gilbert Gaul. John 
La Farge, Will H. Low, Abbott H. Thayer, Charles F. Ulrich, F. W. 
Freer, Elihu Vedder, George de Forest Brush, F. S. Church, Edwin H. 
Blashfield, C. S. Reinhart, W. T. Smedley, C. Y. Turner, Thomas Hoven- 
den, E. A. Abbey, J. Carroll Beckwith, T. W. Dewing, Frederick P. Vin- 



ton, Frank Duveneck, John S. Sargent, Thomas Eakins, George W. 
Maynard, Douglas Volk, Frank D. Millet and Wm. Dannat, among 
others, there is not a modern school or a modern inspiration in art which 
does not find expression in the ranks of the association. When we turn 
to landscape, we find its claims upheld by such exponents as H. Bolton 
Jones, Walter L. Palmer, Bruce Crane, Charles Melville Dewey, R. C. 
Minor, W. L. Picknell, John N. Twachtman, Charles H. Miller, R. Swain 
Giftord, Homer D. Martin, A. H. Wyant, D. W. Tryon and J. Francis 
Murphy. The brothers St. Gaudens, Theodore Bauer, Olin L. Warner 
and W. R. O'Donovan represent the plastic art in its councils. Arthur 
Quartley, Wm. Gedney Bunce, Francis C. Jones, Birge Harrison, Francis 
Lathrop, William Sartain, Louis C. Tiffany, Theodore Robinson and J. II. 
Niemeyer are among the other names of approved merit on its list which 
we just now recall. If memory serves us faithfully, there are four ladies 
in the society— Rosina Emmet. Mary Cassatt, Helena De Kay Gilder and 
Sarah W. Whitman. 



JONES' 




H 1 



KENYON COX. 



MASTERPIECES. 
E was certainly an extraordinary fellow, 
a man of great talent and of equal ability, 
but undecided, weak-willed and absolutely 
without reliance on himself. But how could it 
have been otherwise ? A life spent in art schools 
and studios is not likely to make the liver of it a 
man for emergencies or energetic deeds. 

For two years he had not painted a picture, 
but he had been painting on one all that time, 
lie had commenced it on a panel as big as tr e top of 
a table, cut it in half and made a recommence- 
ment on each moiety, only to divide them and 
cover each of the reduced planes with the same 
experiment. Instead of one large panel, he, at 
the end of two years, had eight small ones, all in 
about the same condition of completion and 
equally unsatisfactory to him. 

"I don't know what it is," he used to say, 
"but there's something about that central figure 
I don't like, and that window is not what it 
ought to be, I'll swear." 

If any professional critic had got sight of his 
work and criticised it half as mercilessly as he 
did, I believe he would have murdered him. 
But he continued tearing himself to pieces, sub- 
sisting by painting figures and ornaments on 
sign boards, locking himself up for days together 
whenever he had secured sufficient money to hire 
models, but coming no nearer the end of his 
work after all. It was in vain that we argued 
with him, in vain we swore the least complete of 
his pictures was superior lo half the finished 
works exhibited. They did not suit him, and 
he pendulated steadily between hopefulness and 
despair, to-day telling you what he proposed to do when he had made his 
hit, to-morrow threaten- 
ing to pistol himself. 
The affair would have 
been ridiculous if he had 
not been a good fellow as 
well as a foolish one. As 
it was, we were uneasily 
suspicious that he might 
some day carry his threat 
out, and sacrifice his life 
as well as his labor to his 
unrealized ideal. 

At last he walked into 
the studio of his neigh- 
bor, Smeere, one after- 
noon, and after the j. alden weir.